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There is a Ukrainian “counterattack”, the UN is seeking the safety of the nuclear power plant

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KYIV — Ukrainian troops have attacked the Russian-controlled eastern town of Balaklia in Kharkiv Oblast, a senior pro-Moscow separatist official said, while Ukrainian officials remained briefed on how the counteroffensive was progressing.

The governor of Luhansk region, Siarhei Gaidai, told Ukrainian television, without naming the places, that “there is a counterattack and… our forces are achieving certain successes.” Let’s leave it at that.”

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In a regular situation report on Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian military said its ground forces had attacked seven Russian command posts and 13 “objects of concentration of Russian manpower,” without saying where.

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It is also said that its forces repelled Russian assaults on various cities in the eastern Donetsk region, including the strategic city of Bakhmut.

Earlier on Tuesday, the president’s adviser tweeted that the president would have “great news” about the operation in northeastern Kharkiv region.

In his evening address, however, President Vladimir Zelensky made scant mention of operations in the Kharkiv region, but he did say that five Russian cruise missiles had been shot down on Tuesday, most of them in the south of the country.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the Ukrainian statements, and there was no immediate response from Russia.

But on Tuesday, an official from the pro-Moscow separatist Donetsk People’s Republic gave an unusually candid account of the fighting in Balaklei, an eastern city of 27,000 people that lies between Kharkiv and Russian-controlled Izyum, a major railway hub used by Moscow to station its forces .

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“Today, the Ukrainian armed forces, after long-term artillery training… launched an offensive on Balakleya…”, Daniil Byazsonov reported in Telegram, adding that if the city is lost, Russian forces in Izyum will become vulnerable on the northwestern flank.

“Ukrainian armed forces concentrated mass fire on mobile groups of the DPR, which took up protection in the nearby forests.

“At this time, Balakleia is under operational encirclement and in the firing zone of Ukrainian artillery. All approaches are cut off by fire.”

Several social media posts by war bloggers and eyewitnesses also reported fighting around Balaklea.

Vadim Krokhmal, a member of the city council of Kupyansk, a city east of Kharkiv that has been occupied for the past five months, posted a video online urging residents not to participate in any referendum on joining Russia that might be organized by the occupying forces.

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“Very soon, the Ukrainian armed forces will liberate Kupyansk. We know it, we are sure of it,” Vadim said, advising people to stock up on food and charge their energy sources.

“All we need is a little patience.”

There is little information about the progress of the main Ukrainian offensive in the southern Kherson region, Kyiv does not allow journalists to the front line and publishes only limited reports to preserve the element of surprise.

Russia claims to have repulsed an assault on Kherson, but Ukraine reports steady success.

“We are conducting positional battles, and there are already areas that we have liberated,” Natalya Humenyuk, the press secretary of the Southern District of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told national television.

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In the statement of the command of the southern district, it is said that over the past day, the Ukrainian military destroyed 83 Russian soldiers, destroyed five tanks, 12 howitzers, three armored vehicles and three ammunition depots. It is also reported that a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire.

Western military experts say Ukraine’s goal in the south appears to be to capture thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the broad Dnieper and cut them off, destroying their rear lines of supply.

The report of Ukraine’s simultaneous offensive near Kharkiv suggests that Russian forces are having difficulty consolidating the front, tweeted Mark Hertling, the retired former commander of US ground forces in Europe.

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NPP SAFETY

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlined concrete steps for both sides to demilitarize the territory around the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which is under Russian control.

The first was that Russian and Ukrainian forces undertook to refrain from military activity in and around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

“A demilitarized perimeter agreement must be secured as a second step,” Guterres told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. “In particular, this will include the obligation of Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from this perimeter and the obligation of Ukrainian forces not to move into it.”

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasyl Nebenzia, told reporters on the eve of the council meeting that “if we demilitarize, the Ukrainians will immediately intervene and spoil everything.”

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The Russian military was protecting the station, Nebenzia said.

Last week, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by agency chief Rafael Grossi, braved shelling to cross the front line and reach the power plant. Two experts from the UN nuclear service remained in the post to maintain a long-term presence.

The long-awaited IAEA report released on Tuesday listed the damaged parts of the plant, including the building where the nuclear fuel is stored, the radioactive waste storage facility and the building that houses the alarm system. It said the power plant had been cut off from external power supplies several times, which is critical to its safe operation.

The report avoided blaming either side for the harm. The plant was seized by Russian forces shortly after their invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but is still run by Ukrainian technicians. It is located on the Russian-controlled shore of a huge reservoir, across the water from Ukrainian positions.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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